Eastern Imperial County
Brochure and Map of BLM Routes of Travel for Easter Imperial County in California. Published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
BLM Routes of Travel
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Bureau of Land Management WELCOME Imperial County lies within the 7-million-acre Colorado Desert in southern California. This unique desert landscape is characterized by broad valleys and low, rugged mountain ranges carved by washes from the draining of seasonal rains. Though elevations range from 275 feet below sea level to nearly 10,000 feet in the mountains, most areas are below 1,000 feet. Summer daytime temperatures in the Colorado Desert can reach more than 110 degrees, and the average annual rainfall is only 2.92 inches. This region contains habitat for wildlife, supports commercial operations such as mining, renewable energy, and utility transmission, and provides a variety of recreational opportunities. The public lands in eastern Imperial County are managed according to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Northern and Eastern Colorado Desert Coordinated Management Plan (referred to as NECO), which updates the California Desert Conservation Area Plan of 1980. A primary emphasis of NECO is the designation of routes of travel for motorized vehicles that protect the resources while still providing visitors access to the history, wilderness, recreation (including off-highway vehicle use), and wildlife throughout the area. RECREATION Dispersed Sites: Camping opportunities can be found throughout the public lands administered by the BLM. Primitive campsites offer one of the best ways to experience the deserts of California. These sites are widely dispersed, undeveloped, and generally do not have signs marking them as campsites. They are usually clear of vegetation and have a hard, compacted surface. The BLM generally allows dispersed camping on all BLM lands with the following conditions and exceptions: 2. HISTORY The Colorado Desert contains thousands of historic and prehistoric archaeological sites and artifacts (objects made or used by humans) that provide a rich legacy of more than 10,000 years of human history in North America. Unfortunately, many sites have been damaged by unauthorized artifact collection and vandalism, which is illegal and subject to severe civil and criminal penalties. Some sites do allow activities such as rockhounding and metal detecting, with certain limitations. Where these activities are not allowed, please enjoy these fragile, nonrenewable resources by viewing, sketching, or photographing them, leaving the surface of the site undisturbed and the artifacts untouched. Tumco Historic Mining Town Tumco is an abandoned gold mining town located in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains east of the Imperial Sand Dunes along Ogilby Road. Originally named Gold Rock Camp, and then Hedges, Tumco is also one of the earliest gold mining areas in California. Its history spans roughly 300 years, with several periods of boom and bust. Gold was first discovered by Spanish colonists as they moved northward from Sonora, Mexico. According to legend, two young boys came into their camp one evening with their shirts filled with gold ore. These muchachos cargados (loaded boys) were the namesake for the Cargo Muchacho Mountains, where the Tumco deposits occur. Following the first discovery of gold, Mexican settlers operated numerous small mines for many years. In 1877, the Southern Pacific Railroad completed the Yuma to Los Angeles line of its transcontinental route. The railroad allowed access to the gold in the Cargo Muchachos, leading to a gold rush into the area and the establishment of the town of Hedges. This initial rush to stake individual mining claims soon gave way to mining companies that moved into the area, purchased claims, and developed the mines on a large scale. A 12-mile wood pipeline pumped more than 100,000 gallons of water per day from the Colorado River to the mines and the railroad carried mine timbers from northern Arizona for use in the expansive underground workings. The Golden Cross Mining and Milling Company was formed in 1893, but high costs and operational problems put the company into receivership in 1895. In 1897, the area was taken over by the Free Gold Mining and Milling Company. By 1907, this company had abandoned the area and Hedges had become a ghost town. The United Mines Company took over the area in 1910, naming the town from the letters in the company name (TUMCo). During the boom of the 1890s, the town supported about 400 people, making it the largest town in what is now Imperial County. The 140 mill stamps operating during its heyday produced $1,000 per day in gold. Ultimately, over 200,000 ounces of gold was taken from the mines in the area. Historical accounts describe Tumco as a typical raucous mining town with rich eastern investors, unscrupulous charlatans, and colorful characters—that ultimately fell into financial ruin. Although the Tumco townsite has long been abandoned, gold mining has been conducted more recently near the western end of this valley. In early 1995, the American Girl Mining Joint Venture began operations near the site of some of the early mines in the area. Additional historic information about the area can be found in the Journal of San Diego History, spring and summer 1996 issues. The Wiley Well District The Wiley Well District is located south of Interstate 10 between Desert Center and Blythe. This beautiful desert country is nestled within the Little Chuckwalla, Mule, and Palo Verde Mountains and the Black Hills. The hills are dotted with sparse desert plants, and paloverde trees line the washes, giving the impression of water and cool shade. The area is known for its colorful flowers, which are coaxed from cactuses and other vegetation by winter rains. The area is also rich in history, and contains ancient fossils as well as artifacts from early Native Americans, pioneers, conquistadors, gold miners, ranchers, and military troops, including those trained by General Patton during World War II. 3. 4. 5. 6. Rockhounds can find agate, chalcedony roses, jasper, psilomelane (romanechite), and amygdules throughout the hills and washes. Another major attraction for rockhounds is the Opal Hill Fire Agate Mine in the Mule Mountains, where very fine fire agate, quartz crystal “flowers,” calcite crystals, chalcedony nodules, and other mineral specimens can be found. There is a fee to dig in this privately owned area. In January 2000, the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies and the BLM signed a memorandum of understanding to designate the Wiley Well District as a Rockhound Educational and Recreational Area and to preserve over 36 square miles of this outstanding collecting area for rockhounding. Information provided by Richard Pankey, California Federation of Mineralogical Societies, Inc. Wilderness areas are special places where the land and resources retain a primeval character and remain essentially undisturbed. These areas provide habitat for numerous wildlife species, sources of clean water, and natural laboratories for research and education. They also provide extraordinary opportunities for solitude as well as recreational activities such as hiking, climbing, horseback riding, birdwatching, and stargazing. Visitors should expect primitive terrain with no facilities, trails, or other improvements. In accordance with the 1964 Wilderness Act, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, or other form of mechanical transport is allowed in wilderness. Wilderness boundaries are set back 30 to 300 feet from the roads or trails leading to them. Indian Pass Wilderness Indian Pass Wilderness is a distinctive part of the Chocolate Mountains, which extend from south-central Riverside County to the Colorado River near Yuma, Arizona. The highest point in this 32,418-acre wilderness is Quartz Peak at 2,200 feet. The jagged mountain peaks and spires are sliced by mazes of twisting canyons that carry water from occasional desert cloudbursts into several tree-lined washes. One of these washes passes through the heart of the wilderness, giving the region the nickname “Julian Wash country.” The area’s proximity to the Colorado River and the Arizona Desert contributes to the presence of wildlife species, such as the Colorado River toad, Great Plains toad, and tree lizard, that are common in other states, but are rarely seen in California. Burros and mule deer make their home throughout the entire area, and the rugged mountains provide ideal habitat for the desert bighorn sheep. Wild horses can often be found wandering into Julian Wash country, which is located about 50 miles west of Brawley. Little Picacho Wilderness Little Picacho Wilderness, located 55 miles east of El Centro, encompasses the southern portion of the Chocolate Mountains. This 38,214-acre wilderness, which ranges in elevation from 200 to 1,500 feet, is characterized by jutting spires and steep ridges with ravines that gradually broaden into sandy, tree-lined washes. Slopes and plains are devoid of vegetation, instead covered with a desert pavement of angular cobbles. These rusty dark orange and brown cobbles stand out against the nearly white bottoms of the washes. A herd of 25 desert bighorn sheep enjoy the terrain, and the Picacho wild horse herd ranges over roughly 5,000 acres in the northwest corner of the wilderness. Wild burros can also be found roaming through the area. These animals share their home with the desert tortoise and the spotted bat. Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness is distinguished by twin buttes, known as the Flat Tops, which stand out as a landmark against a range of jagged peaks. Palo Verde Peak is the high point of the range, rising to 1,800 feet. Dry washes cut across the mountain slopes, supporting such vegetation as paloverde, mesquite, and ironwood. Clapp Spring and its palm oasis are unique to this area, offering the only permanent water source to wildlife species like desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoises, and wild burros. Saguaros, a rare plant species in California, dot the southeastern part of this 30,562-acre wilderness located 18 miles southwest of Blythe. Picacho Peak Wilderness Picacho Peak Wilderness, located 40 miles south of Blythe, contains 8,858 acres composed of three distinct regions. The central and western region is dominated by a massive range of dark gray mountains extending southeast from Indian Pass. Mica Peak, the highest point within the wilderness at 1,499 feet, is located near the center of this range. The region south of these central mountains is a rolling benchland that is dissected by narrow, vertical walled arroyos. The third region is the northeastern area, where small peaks, open basins, and large washes have formed. The lowest points in the wilderness area are found in Gavilan and Carrizo Washes on the eastern boundary. The Carrizo Wash supports a natural rock “tank,” which traps water at the base of Carrizo Falls. The falls are created by runoff from desert cloudbursts, which periodically cascade over a series of rock ledges dropping 40 feet. A large cattail-lined pool at the base of the falls provides a desert oasis for a variety of wildlife species, including desert bighorn sheep. Wild horses and burros roam this wilderness, and desert tortoises burrow in the soft volcanic soils. Little Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness The 28,034 acres of the Little Chuckwalla Mountains Wilderness include rugged mountains surrounded by a large, gently sloping bajada laced with a network of washes. To the north, a bajada gently rises to 400 feet, while the rugged mountains crest at 2,100 feet. Portions of this region provide habitat for bighorn sheep and desert tortoise, and the southern bajada provides crucial desert tortoise habitat. Several sensitive plant species grow here, including the California snakeweed, Alverson’s foxtail cactus, and barrel cactus. • Minimize Campfire Impacts: Use a lightweight gas stove for cooking. Fires, where permitted, should be kept small and within existing fire rings. Wood in arid environments is scarce, so bring your own firewood or do without. Camping is permitted for up to 14 days within a 28-day period at any location, after which campers must relocate at least 25 miles away. • Respect Wildlife: Observe from a distance. Properly store food and do not feed wildlife. Keep pets away from wildlife. Camping is prohibited within 300 feet of any developed water source, including water guzzlers or watering troughs, to keep water accessible to wildlife and livestock. • Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Be courteous and respectful. Yield to others on trails. Avoid making loud noises. A permit may be required for campfires. Contact the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection or the BLM El Centro Field Office prior to your trip if you plan to have a campfire. Restrictions on fires vary depending on fire danger, county ordinances, and other variables. Rockhounding Rockhounding is one of many recreational activities on BLM lands in California. Rockhounds are welcome to collect small, noncommercial quantities of rocks, minerals, and gemstones free of charge on BLM lands. Commercial collecting for the purpose of sale or barter is not allowed without special authorization. Rockhounds may use hand tools such as shovels and picks but must not use explosives or power equipment for excavation. In accordance with the California Desert Conservation Area plan, as amended, stopping, parking, and vehicle camping is allowed within 300 feet of designated routes of travel, except within sensitive areas (such as areas of critical environmental concern, desert wildlife management areas, and critical habitat areas) where the limit is 100 feet from the route. Noncommercial collecting is allowed on most federal lands, but there are some exceptions. Some lands are withdrawn or reserved for certain purposes, such as outstanding natural areas, research natural areas, recreation sites, and national historic sites. Other lands are not open to collecting due to the presence of mining claims. The local BLM office can provide information about collecting areas, including whether any are closed or have fire or vehicle-use restrictions. Camping is prohibited within 1 mile of any of the long-term visitor areas (LTVAs), where visitors are allowed to camp for as long as 7 months. Tent camping is permitted within all wilderness areas managed by the El Centro Field Office. Metal Detecting Another recreational activity on BLM lands involves using metal detectors. Metal detecting is allowed on BLM lands as long as no artifacts (objects over 50 years old) are removed and surface disturbance is minimal. Avoid all cultural and archeological sites; leave artifacts undisturbed and report them to the appropriate BLM field office. Digging in or otherwise damaging archaeological sites will lead to civil or criminal penalties. Metal detecting enthusiasts may remove a handful of rocks from picnic areas, campgrounds, recreational sites, and other areas as long as those areas are not part of a mining claim. Mining claims can be researched on BLM’s land and mineral Legacy Rehost 2000 System (http://www.blm.gov/lr2000). If you have any questions regarding your activities, please contact BLM’s El Centro Field Office for authorization. • Plan Ahead and Prepare: Get to know the area, rules, regulations, and any other special concerns before you visit. Prepare for extreme weather, hazards, and emergencies. • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Use designated routes. Camp at previously used sites. When there is no danger of rain or flash flooding, camp in washes, where signs of camping will eventually be washed away. Camp at least 300 feet away from water sources. • Dispose of Waste Properly: Pack it in, pack it out. Pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter. Deposit human waste OFF-HIGHWAY VEHICLE USE Routes of Travel Designations There are numerous opportunities for off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation on the lands managed by BLM’s El Centro Field Office. Miles of trails await all types of OHV enthusiasts. Please keep in mind that you are responsible for knowing, understanding, and complying with all OHV regulations. Please obey all signs regarding the management of public lands and routes. The NECO planning area is designated as a “limited use” area for vehicle travel, which means that vehicles must stay on approved, signed routes (open routes) and that no cross-country vehicle travel off of those routes is allowed. Vehicle travel is also prohibited in military training areas. All routes, including navigable washes that have been inventoried and mapped on public lands, are designated in the NECO plan as open routes with the following exceptions: WILDERNESS • Leave What You Find: Protect cultural resources. Leave all artifacts as you find them. Leave natural objects and avoid damaging vegetation or transporting nonnative species. Leave No Trace: Many dispersed campsites are showing signs of impact from heavy use. You can lessen your impact on the desert by following these principles of minimum impact: Best known for its many geode beds and a variety of other rocks and minerals, the Wiley Well District has been popular with rockhounds since the 1940s. Geodes are hollow, spherical rock structures composed of chalcedony that have crystals of quartz, calcite, or other minerals lining their walls and extending into the hollow, often forming a beautiful display. There are several productive geode beds in the Black Hills, including Hauser, Roads End, Potato Patch, Cinnamon, Straw, and Hidden Saddle Beds. Geodes can still be found at the surface of the beds. More geodes may be found by digging into the soft volcanic ash; however, disturbance to the surface must remain within allowable limits. 1. Where such use has already been limited or prohibited through publication of a final notice in the Federal Register. 2. Where specific biological parameters proposed through the NECO plan are applied to minimize harassment of wildlife and significant disruption of wildlife habitats relative to motorized-vehicle use. 3. Where restrictions on use are required to protect other resource values of the public lands, promote the safety of all users of the public lands, or minimize conflicts among various uses of the public lands. All navigable washes on public lands that have not been individually inventoried and mapped are designated “open” as a class except where such washes occur within a “washes closed zone” created to meet management goals. The NECO planning area adjoins the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (ISDRA). While cross-country travel is not permitted within the NECO area, the ISDRA is an open area, which means that crosscountry travel is allowed. The ISDRA can be accessed near Glamis. California Off-Highway Vehicle Laws Many, but not all, parts of the California Vehicle Code (CVC) are highlighted below. Operators are responsible for knowing the law. Safety Requirements - Operators and passengers of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) must wear an approved safety helmet (38505, 38601 CVC). Operators and passengers of ROVs must wear a properly fastened seat belt and shoulder belt or safety harness when in motion (38602 CVC). Adult Supervision - ATV operators shall be at least 14 years of age unless they satisfy the safety certification requirements of 38503 CVC and are accompanied and supervised by a parent, guardian, or authorized adult (38504 CVC). ROV operators shall be at least 16 years of age or directly supervised in the vehicle by a parent, guardian, or authorized adult (38600 CVC). Noise Restrictions - Noise emissions of off-highway vehicles shall be limited to not more than 96 dBa if manufactured on or after January 1, 1986, and not more than 101 dBa if manufactured before January 1, 1986 (38370(h)(1) CVC). Please visit http://ohv.parks.ca.gov for other restrictions and information. Carrying of Passengers - No ATV operators shall carry a passenger on public lands unless the ATV is designed to carry a passenger, then they may carry no more than one passenger (38506 CVC). Operators of 2014 or later ROVs shall not allow passengers to occupy a seat not designed and provided by the manufacturer. In older models, seats not designed and provided by the manufacturer may only be occupied if the passenger is fully contained inside the vehicle’s rollover protection structure at all times during operation (38603 CVC). ROV passengers must be able to grasp the occupant handhold with their back against the upright seatback and their seat belt and shoulder belt or safety harness properly fastened (38604 CVC). El Centro Field Office in catholes dug 6 to 8 inches deep and at least 200 feet from water, camp, and trails. Disguise catholes when finished. Pack out toilet paper in two sealable bags. Avoid polluting water sources. Camping 1. BLM Routes of Travel for Eastern Imperial County, California EMERGENCY INFORMATION: Police-Fire-Ambulance 911 Imperial County Sheriff’s Office 760-339-6311 or 1-800-452-2051 California Highway Patrol (El Centro Office) 760-482-2500 CHP Local Road Conditions U.S. Customs and Border Protection Dispatch 760-482-2555 1-800-901-2003 1-800-BE-ALERT For More Information Contact: Bureau of Land Management (www.blm.gov) El Centro Field Office 1661 S. 4th Street El Centro, CA 92243 760-337-4400 Yuma Field Office 7341 E. 30th Street Yuma, AZ 85365 928-317-3200 Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office 1201 Bird Center Drive Palm Springs, CA 92262 760-833-7100 SAFETY In the Colorado Desert, temperatures in the summer often exceed 110 degrees. Visitors should plan accordingly and carry a minimum of a gallon of water per day for each member of their party, as well as sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a daypack. Cell phone and global positioning system (GPS) coverage may be limited in remote areas, so you may also want to carry maps and a compass. In addition, always advise others of where you are going and when you plan to return. BLM/CA/GI-11/012+8300+REV17 Operating an OHV Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs It is unlawful for any person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage, any drug, or a combination of both, to drive a vehicle (23152(a) CVC). Driving off-road or on-road with a suspended or revoked license is against the law (14601 CVC). Speed Laws 1. Basic Speed Law: No person shall operate an off-highway vehicle faster than is safe for conditions (38305 CVC). 2. Prima Facie Speed Limit: The prima facie speed limit within 50 feet of any campground, campsite, or concentration of people or animals shall be less than 15 mph unless changed as authorized by the CVC (38310 CVC). Registration 1. Vehicles operated on federal and state highways and county roads must be licensed for highway use (4000(a) CVC). 2. Off-highway vehicles owned by California residents must be registered with the California Department of Motor Vehicles and properly display a valid Green Sticker or Red Sticker Vehicle Identification Tag (38020, 38010, 38170 CVC). 3. Off-highway vehicles without a valid registration or permit from the owner’s home state (or Mexico and Canada) must purchase a California nonresident permit (sticker) through selected vendors in California, Nevada, and Arizona or from California State Parks, 916-324-4442 (38020 CVC). Required Equipment - Any off-highway vehicle must be equipped with an approved muffler, brakes, and spark arrester. A headlight and at least one red tail light are required for operation at night (38330 CVC). Environmental Damage - No person shall operate an OHV in a way likely to cause environmental damage (38319 CVC, 43 CFR 8341.1(f)(4)). Firearms - Firearms must not be discharged within 150 yards of residences, buildings, campsites, occupied areas, recreational areas, or domestic livestock. Shooting from or across any road is prohibited. Shooting from a vehicle is prohibited. It is unlawful to carry a loaded weapon in a vehicle (California Fish and Game Code 3004, California Penal Code 374c, 12034, and 12031, respectively). Supplementary Rules The following rules apply on public lands administered by the BLM California Desert District unless explicitly authorized by a permit or other authorization document issued by the BLM: • Public nudity is prohibited at all developed sites and areas and all off-road vehicle (ORV) open areas. • It is prohibited for a person to ride in or transport another person in or on a portion of an ORV or trailer that is not designed or intended for the transportation of passengers. • It is prohibited to use as firewood, or have in their possession, any firewood materials containing nails, screws, or other metal hardware, including, but not limited to, wood pallets and/or construction debris. • Possession of glass beverage containers is prohibited in all developed sites and areas and all ORV open areas. • It is prohibited to place into the ground any nonflexible object, such as, but not limited to, metal or wood stakes, poles, or pipes, with the exception of small tent or awning stakes, at all developed sites and areas and all ORV open areas. • It is prohibited to reserve or save a camping space for another person at all developed sites and areas and all ORV open areas. • All persons must keep their sites free of trash and litter during the period of occupancy. WILDLIFE While it seems that little could survive in this harsh, arid environment, a wide variety of wildlife species have adapted to the climate of the Colorado Desert. Such adaptations are evident in the microphyll woodlands that have developed in the alluvial fan formed as flash floods drain from the Cargo Muchacho and Chocolate Mountains onto a flatter plain. In these microphyll woodlands, the mesquite, creosote, ironwood, and paloverde have evolved with small leaves, enabling them to retain more water and stay cooler. This canopy of small leaves provides shelter from the sun’s intense rays for the coyotes burrowing beneath it and the great horned owls nesting within it. It also shades the ponds that form from the summer monsoons, supplying the Couch’s spadefoot, desert tortoise, and numerous other species with much needed water. These microphyll woodlands support the highest density of wildlife within the desert. Maintaining the delicate balance of this desert environment is critical to the survival of the wildlife found here and throughout the area, particularly those species that are sensitive, threatened, or endangered. Please respect the wildlife you encounter and avoid any disturbance to wildlife habitat. Desert Tortoise The desert tortoise, a federally threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, is a seldom-seen inhabitant of the desert. The tortoise’s potential habitat range extends east from the microphyll woodlands along the east side of the Imperial Sand Dunes. If you find a tortoise in the desert, respect its privacy and space. You may take pictures and observe it, but do not touch or harass the animal. If you find a tortoise, either dead or alive, don’t collect it. Call the BLM El Centro Field Office with the general location, global positioning system (GPS) coordinates (if available), your contact information, and the condition of the tortoise. Report any vandalism, harassment, or collecting to the El Centro Field Office or the California Department of Fish and Game’s “CalTip” number: 1-888-334-2258. For more information, contact the El Centro Field Office or visit www.tortoise.org or www.deserttortoise.org. Desert Wildlife Management Areas Desert wildlife management areas (DWMAs) have been established for the protection and recovery of the desert tortoise. DWMAs encompass much of the designated critical habitat for the desert tortoise and are managed as areas of critical environmental concern (ACECs). They may overlap other specially designated areas on BLM and military lands. Special management measures have been established to minimize disturbance to habitat and maximize mitigation, compensation, and restoration from authorized uses within the DWMAs. Danger Keep Out! Danger Keep Out! Danger Keep Out! This scale only applies to this route diagram and not to the smaller route insets. • Designated routes are suitable for all types of off-highway vehicles, including motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and 4x4 vehicles. • No off-route travel is allowed in limited use areas. • No use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment, or other form of mechanical transport is allowed in wilderness. • Vehicle camping is allowed within 300 feet of designated routes of travel, except within sensitive areas (such as areas of critical environmental concern, desert wildlife management areas, and critical habitat areas), where the limit is 100 feet from the route. • County roads (open to street legal vehicles only) are often graded dirtroads and are considered “easy,” and open routes are generallyconsidered “moderately difficult.”